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Some people want community foundations to support newspapers, sort of like NPR. I’m afraid that’d pull coverage away from poor people’s issues like crime and social services and toward rich people’s issues like development and taxation. Where do you think the incentives would fall in a voucher system? I think a voucher-funded system would focus more on the concerns of low- and moderate-income people. There would be news outlets framing their pitch in exactly these terms—that they cover the news that matters to ordinary people. Unlike the current system, the voucher system would effectively provide this downscale audience with purchasing power. –A Plan to Support Creative Work—100 government dollars at a time,” Michael Andersen interviewing Dean Baker, Nieman Journalism Lab
Christopher Caldwell is a white crow among American journalists today, to use a Russian expression. Not merely is his cultural range perhaps without equal–more than just fluent in the major European languages, he is conversant with what is written in them. But in the cast of his intelligence, he is quite unlike most reporters or commentators. Although his background is in literature, it is a philosophical turn of mind that most distinguishes his writing from his peers. What typically attracts his interest are dilemmas–conceptual, moral, social – obscured or passed over in standard discourse about leading, or even marginal, issues of the day. About these, his conclusions are nearly always unconventional–in one way or another, quizzical or unsettling. A senior editor of the Weekly Standard, flag-bearer of American neo-conservatism, his columns in the Financial Times make much liberal opinion look the dreary mainstream pabulum it too often is. It is thus no surprise to find that he has produced the most striking single book to have appeared, in any language, on immigration in Western Europe. In scope and argument, Reflections on the Revolution in Europe has a predecessor in Walter Laqueur’s Last Days of Europe (2007); each book disserved by an overblown title borrowed from a too illustrious author–Edmund Burke and Karl Kraus. But Caldwell’s is a much cooler and more penetrating work. Its empirical range is also considerably wider. Indeed, no study of contemporary European immigration has the same breadth of coverage, including not just Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain, but Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands, Belgium and Ireland too. Analytical, statistical and reportorial strands of the account are integrated in a crisp, vivid prose that is a pleasure to read, even when a strain to accept. The book well deserves the wide discussion it will provoke. –“Portents of Eurabia,” Perry Anderson, The National
It’s almost hard to remember how big a paradigm shift this is. Before the Internet came along, most Americans never wrote anything, ever, that wasn’t a school assignment. Unless they got a job that required producing text (like in law, advertising, or media), they’d leave school and virtually never construct a paragraph again. But is this explosion of prose good, on a technical level? Yes. Lunsford’s team found that the students were remarkably adept at what rhetoricians call kairos—assessing their audience and adapting their tone and technique to best get their point across. The modern world of online writing, particularly in chat and on discussion threads, is conversational and public, which makes it closer to the Greek tradition of argument than the asynchronous letter and essay writing of 50 years ago. The fact that students today almost always write for an audience (something virtually no one in my generation did) gives them a different sense of what constitutes good writing. In interviews, they defined good prose as something that had an effect on the world. For them, writing is about persuading and organizing and debating, even if it’s over something as quotidian as what movie to go see. The Stanford students were almost always less enthusiastic about their in-class writing because it had no audience but the professor: It didn’t serve any purpose other than to get them a grade. As for those texting short-forms and smileys defiling serious academic writing? Another myth. When Lunsford examined the work of first-year students, she didn’t find a single example of texting speak in an academic paper. –“Clive Thompson on the New Literacy,” by Clive Thompson, Wired
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”